If you have posted a picture of your cat online, data analyst and artist Owen Mundy, and now, the rest of the world, knows where it lives. And, by that logic, he knows where you live, too.
That should probably creep you out a little bit, and that's really the point. Developed by Mundy, I Know Where Your Cat Lives is meant as part art project, part wake up call to people to scrub their photos of the EXIF metadata stored on every photo you take. He told me there's little harm in posting pictures of one million geotagged cats on the internet, but the implication is clear: It's really very easy to find out where you live (and lots of other information about you) simply based on what you post online.
"I have a daughter and had been posting pictures of her on Instagram for about a year, and then I realized that Instagram had created a map of every picture I had been sharing with the world," Mundy said. "That scared me. So I thought, what's the least creepy, most fun way to do this? It's less likely someone is going to try to kidnap your cat, but, to a lot of people, their pets are like a child."
In other words, this site might as well be called "I Know Where You Live," or "I Know Where Your Child Sleeps."
The cats come from all over the world. Image: iknowwhereyourcatlives.com
For a map of cat photos, it took a surprising amount of work to build. In fact, he had to employ the help of a supercomputer housed at Florida State University, to actually geotag and upload all the photos—it was taking ages to do on his Macbook.
First, he scraped the publicly-available metadata (which includes longitude and latitude, which is how this works) from photos that are tagged "cat" from Flickr, Instagram, and several other image hosting sites, then he actually downloaded all the photos and scrubbed the metadata from it. The results you see on the map are completely anonymous, with no way of tracing an image back to the original social media account it came from (unless you posted it yourself, of course).
He says he'll take down pictures from anyone who is disturbed that a photo of their cat is linked with their address, but so far people haven't seemed to mind much.
"The default seems to be there's less privacy, this kind of commercial culture that makes everything on the internet open," he said. "I think it's logical to do something like this. Privacy is an ongoing, changing thing, and I hope this becomes part of the conversation."